Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall
Sarah Hicks is the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, a broad-spectrum series of popular music, jazz, Broadway classics, movie scores and other genres. In this role, she oversees planning for the Live at Orchestra Hall season and conducts many performances on that series by the full Orchestra. She also conducted the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series, which were hosted by Orchestra violist Sam Bergman, for ten seasons.
Hicks’ career has seen collaborations with a diverse range of artists, from Hilary Hahn and Dmitri Hvorostovsky to Rufus Wainwright, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson. She has been an artistic leader in concerts featuring artists from Minnesota’s internationally-renowned popular music scene—including shows with The New Standards, multiple sold-out performances with Dessa and collaborations with indie band Cloud Cult. She also worked with director Peter Rothstein, writer Kevin Kling and composer Robert Elhai on creating an original Minnesota Orchestra holiday concert that is presented as a central part of the annual Holiday season at Orchestra Hall. Her passion for cross-genre partnerships led to a 2019 album with Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra, and in 2021 she collaborated with DrLupo for an innovative live-gaming project for Intel.
Hicks was the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of pops and presentations from 2009 to 2013; for three prior seasons she was the Orchestra’s assistant conductor. In 2008, she arranged music for and conducted “A Scandinavian Christmas” concerts. She has twice led the Orchestra in classical subscription concerts, including fully-staged performances of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel in 2009. Starting in 2007 she conducted the Inside the Classics series, which in 2012 featured the world premiere of Acadia, a major work by New York-based composer Judd Greenstein—commissioned specifically for Inside the Classics and funded entirely through donations by more than 400 individuals via the Orchestra’s Musical MicroCommission project.
A specialist in film music and the film in concert genre, she is passionate about creating concert experiences which combine sight and sound, and that welcome new audiences to the orchestral genre. She has premiered Pixar in Concert and Disney-Pixar’s Coco in Concert; her live concert recording of “A Celebration of the Music of Coco at the Hollywood Bowl” can be seen on Disney+ and her work on Little Mermaid Live was broadcast on ABC. With the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, she recorded film music for an album titled The Morricone Duel, which was released in 2018, has been broadcast around the world and has garnered over 150 million views on YouTube.
Hicks has garnered national and international acclaim as a highly sought-after conductor: she has guest conducted both in the United States and abroad, leading such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, Dallas Symphony, Hawaii Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, RTÉ (Dublin) Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic and Malaysian Philharmonic, among many others.
The 2021-22 season marked her debuts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, WDR Köln and the Grant Park Music Festival. Her opera appearances included the East Slovak State Opera Theater and the Curtis Opera Theater, as well as operas in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra and the RTÉ Orchestra. Her commitment to new music led to the creation of an innovative micro-commission project, and her recording of new concertos, Triple Doubles, was released on the Bridge label.
Hicks’ 2022-23 season at Orchestra Hall includes live-to-picture performances of The Princess Bride, Elf, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. During the holiday season, she’ll lead a concert with Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. In the springtime she’ll conduct Symphony for Our World, a score that accompanies National Geographic footage exploring Earth’s biomes. Summertime programs include A Night in the Tropics—an exploration of rhythms from Brazil, Cuba and Hawaii featuring Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus—and the return of Dessa for two new collaborative performances in August.
During the summer of 2011 Hicks served as conductor for Sting’s Symphonicities Tour, leading 31 concerts over two months in venues throughout Europe. She has completed a recording project with the Vermont Symphony, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson.
Hicks is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist and was on faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music from 2000 to 2005 and served as staff conductor until 2012. Her presentation, “The Art of Conducting,” has illustrated the idea of collaborative leadership to numerous organizations, civic groups and corporations. Her interest in the intersection of mental health and music led to the production of a concert titled Music and the Mind and her commitment to open conversations about mental health issues continues through her blog, podcast, YouTube series and other online advocacy.
Born in Tokyo and raised in Honolulu, Hicks trained on both the piano and the viola. She received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University as a composition major and she holds an artist’s diploma in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with the late renowned pedagogue Otto-Werner Mueller.
Hicks is the first woman to hold a titled conductor post in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history.